26/01/2004

UN must act urgently to fight genocide, says Annan

Describing the past decade as “especially shameful”, the UN Secretary-General has today called on the global community to take urgent political and, if necessary, military action to prevent genocide.

Among measures Kofi Annan proposed today were the establishment of a committee by States' parties to the Genocide Convention to review reports and recommend action, as well as the appointment of a special rapporteur to deal directly with the Security Council.

The rapporteur would be tasked to make clear the link between "massive and systematic violations" of human rights and "threats to international peace and security".

“Genocide, whether imminent or ongoing, is practically always, if not by definition, a threat to the peace,” Mr Annan said in an address to the Stockholm International Forum on preventing genocide.

“It must be dealt with as such – by strong and united political action and, in extreme cases, by military action.”

Mr Annan cited the genocide of the 1990s when more than 7,000 civilians were murdered following the capture of the Srebrenica enclave by Serb forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the 800,000 Tutsis and Hutus that were massacred in Rwanda. The UN had peacekeepers in both areas at the time.

“In Rwanda, some of those peacekeepers lost their lives trying to defend the victims. All honour to them. But instead of reinforcing our troops, we withdrew them,” he said.

He added that in both cases the gravest mistakes were made by Member States, particularly in the way decisions were taken in the Security Council “but all of us failed”.

At the roots of violence and genocide, said Mr Annan, were “intolerance, racism, tyranny, and the dehumanizing public discourse that denies whole groups of people their dignity and rights”.

The Secretary-General went on to praise Canada for setting up the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty. He also voiced hope that the International Criminal Court would serve to deter further genocide.

(gmcg)

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